In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the news that "Aslan is on the move" was good news, very good news. Why was the news so good? Because the situation was dire. It was winter, and had been winter for a long, long time and "it never got to Christmas." The news that Aslan was on the move meant that Christmas was finally going to arrive.
Aslan on the move provided a much-needed spark of hope. His appearance meant that something was finally happening. Things were bound to change, promised to change, would change. This is the Gospel in a nutshell. The bad news of sin has brought desolation to this world and to our lives — "But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us … according to His mercy" (Titus 3:4-5).
“The days are evil,” says the scripture, and our world lies in despair and drudgery. We live in a world of pain, but the appearance of the Lion of Judah brings the hope of eternity. Hope for eternity is of inestimable value in this life of pain.
I was talking to Mark Ingalls this week. Mark is one of our fantastic deacons and has suffered with neuropathy in his feet for years. He is in constant pain and there really isn't any hope for improvement. I asked him how he dealt with the pain. His answer was remarkable.
He said, “Pain is one of the things that draws me closer to God. And I finally understand why suffering does that. It's because I know that eventually, when I die, I will not have any pain. Looking forward to that gives me the strength to do what I do now. It thrills me. My eternal life will be a gift from Him. This is the only way I can get through, and it makes every day livable. I know there are many others who believe the same thing. Their faith in God carries them through what they are going through right now because they know His goodness and His reward to them is the endgame. Christmas is coming! It's dreary now, but it's not always going to be that way.”
That was pretty much verbatim. I know because I asked him twice to repeat it because it was so powerful. These are remarkable words of wisdom from a man who lives daily with pain. It thrills him? How can pondering pain bring a thrill? I was reminded of the familiar words we sing each Christmas, “A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices.” It is not the pain that thrills, but the hope that pain points to. Christ’s appearance has brought hope to a weary world.
All suffering is pain, and all suffer. Pain comes in many forms. There is suffering that is physical or emotional. There is grief, loneliness, relationship problems, financial distress, as well as the stress of too little time and too many responsibilities.
My advice? Follow Mark Ingalls’ example. See and believe that pain has a purpose to draw you closer to God. Know and experience the truth that Christmas is coming and it won't always be this way.
"O soul are you weary and troubled?” The opening line from this well-known hymn provides a good question for all of this Christmas. The answer is found in the refrain:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace."